12 user 9 critic

General Spanky (1936)

Passed | | Comedy, Family, War | 11 December 1936 (USA)
A small boy is instrumental in a famous Civil War victory.


, (as Fred Newmeyer)


(original story and screen play), (original story and screen play) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 1 Oscar. See more awards »


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Spanky and Alfalfa fake a tooth-ache to get out of school.

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The gang is putting on a show with Alfalfa billed as "King of the Crooners." But Alfalfa abandons the show saying his crooning days are over, and that opera is his true calling. But after ... See full summary »

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Stars: Our Gang, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer
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The gang promises to keep away from girls on St. Valentine's Day, but Alfalfa can't resist Darla.

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Stars: Darla Hood, George 'Spanky' McFarland, Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer


Complete credited cast:
Spanky (as Spanky McFarland)
Buckwheat (as Billie Thomas)
Alfalfa (as Carl Switzer)
Col. Blanchard
James P. Burtis ...
Boat Captain (as James Burtis)
Henry (as William Best)


A small boy is instrumental in a famous Civil War victory.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A Hal Roach full length feature. (Posters).


Comedy | Family | War


Passed | See all certifications »




Release Date:

11 December 1936 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Grande Generalzinho  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


George McFarland ("Spanky") died at age 64, Billie 'Buckwheat' Thomas ("Buckwheat") died at age 49 and Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer ("Alfalfa") died at age 31. See more »


[first lines]
Buckwheat's Slavemaster: Where's Buckwheat?
Slave: I don't know, boss.
Buckwheat's Slavemaster: Buckwheat?
Buckwheat: Here I is.
See more »


Edited into The Our Gang Story (1994) See more »


Listen To The Mockingbird
Music by Richard Milburn and lyrics by Septimus Winner
See more »

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User Reviews

The Our Gang Kids...in the Civil War!!!
21 December 2004 | by See all my reviews

When I first saw this obscure film--the ONLY feature of the Our Gang kids--I was expecting a feature-length version of one of their shorts, so naturally I was quite unhappy with GENERAL SPANKY. Watching it again after many years, I find it more strange than unsatisfying. There are a lot of excellent elements in the film, yet other parts of the film are cringe-inducing or surreal. Producer Hal Roach managed to take Laurel and Hardy from the world of comedy shorts to the world of features with great success, so it's not surprising that he would want to take the Our Gang kids from shorts to features. My only question is...why a Civil War vehicle, with Buckwheat as a slave! The box of the MGM/UA video states the Roach was inspired by the success of Shirley Temple in THE LITTLE COLONEL to cast Spanky, Buckwheat, and Alfalfa in an "Old South" setting, but Our Gang's brand of comedy is much different from Shirley Temple's. Interestingly, Hal Roach returned to the "Old South" setting a few years later, when he teamed Oliver Hardy with Harry Langdon (Stan Laurel refusing to re-sign his contract with Roach) in ZENOBIA, another strange film. Perhaps Roach was inspired to cash in on the GONE WITH THE WIND phenomenon with ZENOBIA? Since Mr. Roach was from New York State, it's interesting that he would buy into the "romantic Old South" mythology. In any event, as I said above, there are some excellent elements in this film. Buckwheat Thomas and Spanky McFarland are fantastic, charismatic performers who can easily carry a feature film on their own. Buckwheat, in particular, is quite moving, when he is looking at a birthday cake while incredibly hungry, and since he's never seen a birthday cake before, he thinks the cake is on fire, and because he is hungry, he starts to cry. The underrated Phillips Holmes (best known for the 1931 adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's AN American TRAGEDY), who reminds me somewhat of Onslow Stevens, is quite impressive as Marsh Valient, the Southern Gentlemen who takes in Spanky and Buckwheat. Holmes' scene with Spanky where the two of them discuss the nature of war was quite moving and still has a necessary message today (it reminds me of Oliver Hardy's speech on racial equality in ZENOBIA). Ralph Morgan turns on his gruff charm as the Union general who refers to Spanky as "General" and treats him as a peer throughout the film--the effect is somewhat surreal. Irving Pichel is superb as the arrogant and sleazy Union officer Simmons. On the whole, however, GENERAL SPANKY is such a strange experience, I don't really know what to make of it. Any serious Our Gang fan should see it, and people attracted to weird cinematic misfires might find it interesting also. It's still available cheaply from its early 90's VHS release. I've never been much of a fan of Alfalfa, and fortunately he doesn't appear in the film until half way through, and soon after he does his patented "off key singing" routine. It has not gotten any better with age. Fortunately, the film belongs to Spanky and Buckwheat, and they do a great job.

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